The Hero of the Story

[Originally published on my other blog on December 15, 2014.]

There’s a Regina Spektor song that has one of my favorite lines in all of music and poetry.

The line is: “I’m the hero of the story / Don’t need to be saved.”

I have clung to this line like a talisman for years.

This year in particular.

This year has been my hardest. I’ve had previous years that I thought were worthy of the title, but this one put them to shame.

This has been The Year My Depression Almost Killed Me. For once, I am not being hyperbolic for the sake of deflection or humor. I can say, in all seriousness, that if I hadn’t sought help and started therapy and medication this past spring, I would most likely be dead. This was not simply the moodiness and sensitivity and ennui that have been my trademarks all my life; this year, I got well and truly sick. My brain told me lies that put me in so much pain that I sincerely wanted to die. Some of it is purely chemical. Some of it is simply needing to un-fuck my way of thinking about myself and other people. I say “simply” with a bit of a sarcastic sneer, because there’s nothing simple about reframing the way you see yourself, your life, the world around you. There’s nothing simple about coming to terms with the fact that parts of you are broken and need to be re-built a different way. Seeking help was a relief, but it also was the beginning of a lot of really, really hard work. Things got worse before they got better. I thought I could get through this without medication but quickly came to realize that I couldn’t. That was a blow to the old ego, but I don’t regret making that decision. I’m sick, and sometimes sick people need to take medicine. I got over it. I took the meds, and then I took a little bit more. And then added a second. And I started feeling pretty good.

Then I lost my job.

I’ve never been out of work. It’s a very strange feeling. It’s been almost a month now, and for the most part it’s been okay. My former employer gave me a pretty generous severance package so I don’t have to panic about money or insurance for a little while. For the first couple of weeks, it felt like vacation. It’s getting a little bit harder now because it’s Christmastime and I feel a little cut off from society and am finding it harder to get in the spirit than usual. I bought people presents, and I’ve seen the lights and the Macy’s windows downtown. But I’m not feeling it so much. Maybe it’ll get better when I go down to my parents’ place next week and it’s officially Christmas. I hope so.

I’ve been seeing someone for a couple of months. It was never an ideal situation from my perspective, but I was willing to explore it. I took a risk, because I’m a romantic at heart and believe that many of the best things in life require a leap of faith. But it didn’t work out. There may be a right time for us, but that time is not right now. And I knew that it was going to drag on and on in a painful way unless I took the initiative to end it, and so I did. This morning. It sucked and I’m sad.

So let’s take stock: No job, no love life, and a mental health status that feels a bit shaky lately.

Merry Christmas.

I let myself be down in the dumps for most of the day today. I let myself admit that this sucks and I’m sad and I don’t know when I’ll stop being sad because I have no idea what the next month, or six months, or twelve months of my life are going to look like. Not the foggiest idea. I feel like I’m able to count on way fewer things than I’m used to. I have far fewer givens and far more variables than I usually do, and that lack of stability is not a great thing for someone struggling with her mental health.

But then I decided to be done with my pity party, because I realized that this has also been a year of incredible growth for me. I have learned so much, and I have done an enormous amount of work on myself and come to some truly priceless realizations. The fact that I walked away from this guy this morning is a sign of how far I have come – I could’ve hung around for months and been miserable while lying to myself about why I was doing it. But I didn’t. I realized that I deserve better than what he’s offering right now, and I said goodbye. That seems simple, but it’s a big deal for me. I might not have a lot of certainty about my life at the moment, but I’ve got a far better sense of who I am and what I deserve than I’ve ever had before, and that’s big. I found a cause that I’m passionate about, which is a woman’s right to choose, and I’ve become an activist. Not just someone who talks a lot about being pro-choice, but an actual activist. And that has given me a feeling of autonomy and power and value that I’ve never felt before. It’s making me feel the closest to happiness that I’ve felt in a long time. And I made it happen. I accepted that I was in a bad way and got help and I’m doing the work. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and cried a lot of tears and said a lot of really, really dirty words, but I’m getting it done, because somewhere along the line I realized that I’m a person worth saving, and ultimately the only person who can do that is me. I refuse to buckle under the weight of my illness. I refuse to tap out. I refuse to accept any outcome other than the one I’m working for.

In any story, there’s always a moment when it seems all is lost. But then the hero rises and saves the day.

I’m the hero of the story.

I’ve said the words many times, but this was the year I truly learned what they mean.

I’m the hero of the story. And I don’t need to be saved.

I’m saving myself.

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